Entering the NCAA Tournament coming off a loss to Iowa, it was unclear how Maryland women’s basketball would look in its first game of March Madness. After getting out to a 16-2 lead over Radford in the first five minutes of action, it seemed that the Terrapins were well on their way to a blowout.
Radford eventually found its groove and was able to drill a few three-pointers, cutting the score to 22-17 at the 6:08 mark of the second quarter. But Brenda Frese called a timeout, and from that point on, the Terps outscored the Highlanders 11-3 for the rest of the period, effectively ending the game.
“We just had to regroup our focus,” Frese said. “Sometimes we tend to see a big lead and obviously we allowed it to slip away. It just reminded them that Radford wasn’t going to quit playing and we just needed to recenter us.”
It was a strong defensive game for Maryland, which held Radford to 29.7 percent shooting and a 26.1 percent clip from beyond the arc. Top to bottom, the Terps were stout on the defensive end.
“I think our defense definitely led to our offense in the third quarter and just got us out running in transition,” freshman guard Taylor Mikesell said. “We were able to get one stop and get the rebound and we were able to get out and push in transition.”
Even at the end of the game, Maryland never let up defensively. In fact, Radford didn’t score in the final three minutes of action. And after some talking between the teams late that led to Shakira Austin getting a foul on the final offensive possession, Sarah Myers closed things out with a ferocious block to end the game on a high note.
“It’s March, it’s the tournament,” Myers said. “It’s always fun to get in no matter how many minutes you play. There were just little things going back-and-forth with each team, so I just wanted to get our team excited going into the next game.”
Now, only one team stands in between the Terrapins and the Sweet 16 in Albany: UCLA. The Bruins received a No. 6 seed in the field, matching up against No. 11-seed Tennessee. It was a back-and-forth affair against the Volunteers, who led by three points with five to play. But after the game was tied at 70 at the 3:34 mark, UCLA closed things out on a 19-7 run to pull away at the end.
For a trip to Albany to play against the winner of No. 2-seed Connecticut and No. 10-seed Buffalo, Maryland and UCLA will battle it out on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. The game can be watched on ESPN (coverage map can be found here), WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
UCLA Bruins (21-12, 12-6 Pac-12)
2017-18 record: 27-8 (14-4 Pac-12)
Michael Price Family UCLA Women’s Head Basketball Coach Cori Close is in her eighth season with the Bruins. While this is her first head coaching job, Close has had tons of experience as an assistant, working for 18 seasons with UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Florida State. Under her leadership, the Bruins have received four NCAA Tournament berths in the last seven seasons, including an Elite Eight appearance just last year. Close also has an NIT championship under her belt for the 2014-15 season.
Players to know
Michaela Onyenwere, sophomore, forward, 6’0, No. 21. After a relatively quiet freshman season that saw her average 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game—though she was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team—Onyenwere has broken out to become a leader for the Bruins in her second year with the program. She now averages 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, both of which rank seventh in the conference.
Kennedy Burke, senior, guard, 6’1, No. 22. A three-year starter for the Bruins, Burke is playing the best basketball of her collegiate career in her final season. The senior is currently averaging a career-high 32.6 minutes per game, and for good reason. Her scoring output is all the way up to 15.3 points from 10.6 last year, and she’s also adding in 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and two steals per contest.
Japreece Dean, senior, guard, 5’7, No. 24. Rounding out the trio of double-digit scorers is Dean, also in her final year of college basketball. But unlike Burke, she’s not in her fourth year with UCLA. Dean started out her career with Texas Tech, transferring midway through her sophomore season. That decision cost her the first nine games of her junior season, where she was mainly a reserve off the bench. But now, she’s blossomed into a reliable scorer and facilitator for the Bruins, as she averages 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 34.2 minutes of action.
Rebounding. Despite a severe lack of size—nobody in UCLA’s rotation is taller than 6’1 besides 6’6 Shayley Harris, who plays just 4.8 minutes per game—the Bruins are surprisingly effective on the glass. They average 41.5 rebounds per game, second in the Pac-12, but they’ve made their biggest impact on the offensive glass. There, UCLA secures an average of 16.9 boards per game, tops in the conference and fifth in the nation. That leads to a ton of second-chance scoring opportunities.
Shooting. While UCLA is actually above average in scoring—its 73.8 points per game rank fifth in the Pac-12—most of that is due to an abundance of second-chance points. In terms of scoring efficiently, the Bruins are severely lacking. They hit just 41.9 percent of their field goals, ninth in the conference, and their 30.9 percent three-point field-goal percentage ranks 11th in the Pac-12 and outside the top 175 nationally.
Three things to watch
1. Will the Terps stay out of foul trouble? In two straight games, Maryland has had a ton of problems keeping its stars on the court. Of course, it didn’t end up mattering against Radford, but the amount of calls against the Terrapins was troubling. Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin both had four fouls on the afternoon, and Blair Watson picked up three herself. In what could be a tight contest against the Bruins, the Terps will need to avoid foul trouble.
2. Can Maryland keep Michaela Onyenwere in check? To put it mildly, Maryland has struggled this season against dominant scorers. Megan Gustafson (28.1 points per game average) averaged 38 points per game against Maryland, Teniya Page (19.2) averaged 22 and Kenisha Bell (18.9) scored 23 in the lone meeting. Onyenwere has been on a hot streak as of late, and it’ll be a tall task to keep her contained.
3. How much does the home-court advantage help? With the men’s basketball team playing at the same time on Saturday, the Xfinity Center crowd was lacking somewhat. But against UCLA, there won’t be any conflicts and the fans should be out in full force. The Terrapins are a strong 15-1 at home so far this season, and in the last home game of the season, they’ll look to make it 10 victories in a row.